Ultrasounds are diagnostic tools using high-frequency sound waves to develop an image of internal organs, but they are most commonly used as a way to assess fetal growth and development throughout pregnancy.
Ultrasounds provide medical professionals and pregnant mothers alike with important information that helps mold the provider’s care plan for both the mother and the fetus throughout each trimester.
Types of Ultrasounds
During the first few months of pregnancy, ultrasounds are normally administered trans-vaginally. A small probe is inserted into the vagina, which gives a clearer picture in the early stages of pregnancy so fetal development can be accurately measured.
Once pregnancy progresses, external abdominal ultrasounds are used. Gel is applied to your abdominal region and the technician moves the transducer across your belly, creating a clear image.
When Are Ultrasounds Performed?
In most cases, ultrasounds are administered three times throughout pregnancy, once during every trimester.
In the first trimester, between weeks one and 12, the purpose of an ultrasound is to:
- Confirm fetal heartbeat
- Measure approximate age of the fetus and estimate a due date
- Check for multiple fetuses
- Look for abnormalities
- Check ovaries, uterus and placenta for good health
As the pregnancy progresses to the second trimester, weeks 12 to 28, the growth of the placenta and the fetus should be measured again. Usually an ultrasound is ordered at around 20 weeks of pregnancy. The medical team will be looking for:
- Detailed fetal anatomy
- How much amniotic fluid is present
- Fetal activity and movement
- Healthy placental attachment
- Cervical length (to look for risk of preterm labor)
- The gender of the baby, if the parents want to know
By the third trimester, weeks 28 to 40, if all signs point to a healthy mother and baby, an ultrasound may not be ordered. If it is, doctors are primarily looking at the health of the placenta, the position of the fetus and the level of amniotic fluid.
While most ultrasounds deliver standard, two-dimensional images, new technology has made it possible for some scans to be viewed in 3D or even 4D images. 3D enables the ultrasound technician to see width, height and depth at once, allowing for even more accurate measurements. Ultrasounds done using 4D technology let the technician to see the baby moving in real time.
Both 3D and 4D ultrasounds require technicians with extra training, but the results help physicians gain a deeper understanding of the baby’s health, and the families enjoy viewing the scans as well.
At Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center, our team of doctors and technicians is accredited by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. You can trust that all the medical professionals in the organization have been appropriately trained and certified and all equipment is well-maintained. You can rely on the professionals at Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center, where ultrasounds are administered safely and effectively throughout pregnancy.